April 2, 2020

Online Learning Essentials for Students with ADP and Their Educators

Online education became the norm very quickly, and many educators and students are finding they need to adjust to an entirely different way of presenting and receiving information. There is absolutely a learning curve and, fortunately, many schools have embraced change and innovation. For a student with auditory processing difficulties, online learning can be a challenge due to background noise, poor acoustics, lack of visuals, or extra distractions. The following are recommendations to consider when planning a lesson or planning to watch a lesson.

For Educators

1. Record your class and have it available for review. This allows students to attend the live session (if offered) and then go back and pause the video to clarify their notes or listen again to a section they had difficulty understanding.

2. Face the camera and use appropriate lighting. Individuals with auditory processing disorder may rely more on lipreading than you realize. They also use your facial expression and tone to supplement the auditory message.

3. Use an external mic. This is essential. A head worn boom mic is the best option for continuous clear audio. For those using earbuds with the mic on the cord—stop. This type of mic is only reliable up to six inches away from the mouth. If you move your head, turn, are wearing jewelry, or it gets tangled, the signal changes. Also, using the computer mic can cause unwanted echo and degraded sound quality.

4. Speak clearly and at an appropriate rate of speech. Not sure if your rate of speech is appropriate? A good rate of speech for learning is 130-150 words per minute. To figure out your rate of speech, use a free online speech rate calculator, like this one from Debatrix.

5. Use a non-distracting background when presenting important information. It’s fine to be a little silly and use a custom backdrop or show off your pets, since we ALL need breaks—but when you want information to be retained and understood, reduce the visual distraction.

6. Mute all students unless they are asking a question or are called on. Define a system of how they will ask questions or get your attention. It may be clicking on the “raise hand” option or sending a private chat to you. It may even be physically raising their hand if they are on camera. The goal is to control as much noise as possible.

7. Provide access to written supplements or outlines for students to download and use prior to attending the online class.

8. If you are going to ask students to share during class, give them a heads up. “Tomorrow I’ll be asking you to talk about a time in your life when you experienced a moral dilemma and how you went about making a decision.”

9. Present information one modality at a time and make sure the auditory information is consistent with the visual or kinetic information. For example, you don’t want to show an image of the entire solar system if you are only talking about one planet.

For Students

1. Be prepared ahead of time. Know what topic you are covering and be sure you have done your reading.

2. Know your strengths and weakness; there are different types of APD and each comes with specific characteristics. Anticipate areas of difficulty and discuss options with your instructor.

3. Print out any slides or outlines ahead of class so you can take notes on or refer to the information more easily during the class.4. Choose the least visually distracting presentation view; it may be less distracting to only see the speaker versus seeing all participants in the class.

5. Minimize all distractions in your study space. Choose a quiet room, close the door, and use noise-cancelling headphones if necessary.

6. When taking notes during a live class, jot down time markers in the margin if you are having trouble keeping up. This will allow you to easily find the spot to review in the recorded lecture later.

7. Read over your notes after class to be sure you understand the material. If you have areas of confusion, write out specific questions and email your instructor or schedule an appointment during virtual office hours.

8. Take breaks when you need to. It is often more efficient to work diligently for 25 minutes at a time and then take a 5–10-minute break than to pull a marathon study session.

Online learning can be challenging for everyone involved, but has the potential to be an exciting tool with multiple advantages. Following these suggestions and being flexible are key to good outcomes for everyone. If you have APD, reach out to your audiologist for specific recommendations.